A Greater Manchester-based domestic abuse charity is offering training to businesses across the city-region to help them better support employees in the workplace.

Independent Choices – a Greater Manchester based charity supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and violence - is developing a training suite for businesses to help them spot the signs after accessing Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Skills for Growth programme.

Hayley Brewer, manager of Independent Choices GM, heard about the SME Support arm of the Skills for Growth programme in 2021 after Covid-19 led to a surge in calls to the charity’s confidential helpline. Noting that the programme offered fully-funded training, Hayley contacted the service to see how it could help staff with managing the extra workload while also looking after their own mental resilience.

Soon after, Hayley’s employees attended a workshop around mental health and wellbeing and each completed their own professional development plan, identifying areas for them to focus on long-term.

Hayley also accessed a marketing course to help her boost the digital presence of the charity at a time when people were connecting online more than ever before.

Now, Independent Choices GM is developing its own training for businesses across the city-region, helping employers to spot the signs of domestic abuse and how to be aware if a victim and perpetrator work in the same place.

Hayley said: “As a charity, we don’t have the funding for expensive professional development so the fact the training was free allowed us to give our employees access to an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.

“I received really positive feedback from staff – they said they felt valued and heard thanks to the individual development plans. We’ve done a lot of mental health work in the past because we can deal with some really traumatic incidents but it’s always useful to refresh this knowledge, especially during such an uncertain time, so staff can look after themselves and also offer the best advice to their clients.

“We decided to access a 26-week programme of support, which can sound daunting but the whole process has been really manageable and our skills coach has been easy to talk to and approachable.

“The support is ongoing now too. Our coach has been clear that they can help with other opportunities moving forward and that’s how the training suite came about. SME Support can help connect us with businesses that would benefit from this type of guidance.”

Independent Choices GM is now gearing up for the launch of the training, which they have ambitions to roll out this summer to businesses of all sizes.

Hayley added: “ONS data tells us that for the year ending March 2020, an estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse.

“We also know that the pandemic has impacted domestic violence. Of course, we want to support and educate as many businesses as possible but we’re really keen to break into the bigger organisations as they have the largest staff base and are therefore likely to have more employees in need of support, if you think about the statistics.”

Speaking about the guidance offered to Independent Choices, Janine Richardson, Programme Manager at Skills For Growth - SME Support, which is delivered by GC Business Growth Hub  said: “The work that Independent Choices GM does is hugely important and we know that demand for its services has risen during the pandemic. The support we have offered business and its staff during this critical period is a great example of how we tailor activity to address a business’ specific needs, building resilience during challenging times.

“We encourage businesses who are interested in benefiting from the programme to apply on our website.”

Skills for Growth is Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s three-year programme aimed at plugging skills gaps employers in Greater Manchester have continuously struggled to fill.

It is a £42m programme funded through the European Social Fund and has two main offers; skills training in specific industries delivered by commissioned providers and wraparound SME guidance delivered by Growth Company through the Skills for Growth – SME Support service.

Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Greater Manchester’s lead for Education, Work, Skills, Apprenticeships and Digital said: “It’s not news that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses and organisations need to operate. That’s what makes Skills for Growth so vital. It’s responsive to the barriers and challenges our business community is experiencing.

“Of course, ensuring people who live and work here have the skills they need to progress and support business growth is important, but Independent Choices is a perfect example of how Skills for Growth can have a direct impact on the communities around us too.

“To continue supporting clients, businesses need to support their staff too. Managers like Hayley who understand and act on the importance for continued professional development leads to employees having the knowledge they need, which - in this case - means that they can continue to support some of Greater Manchester’s most vulnerable people.”

For more information about the Skills for Growth programme, visit www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/skillsforgrowth, or to find out more about SME Support, visit www.skillsforgrowthsme.co.uk.


Article Published: 19/08/2022 11:44 AM